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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Retailers seeing improvement in holiday season

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mild weather contributed to a large turnout for Monett's second Broadway Nights last Friday. Parking extended from the 500 block to west of Third Street, as shown above near The Trunk in the 300 block. Living store windows, a brass band playing at Denali Dreams and a photo booth at the Chamber of Commerce office all provided something extra to do in addition to Christmas shopping, with 18 stores staying open late. Plans call for Broadway Nights to continue on the second Friday of every month. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Monett merchants report sales activity during the first half of the Christmas shopping season has been generally busier than last year and year-end sales projections are upbeat.

Bigger ticket items were in strong demand at Lowe's as the post-Thanksgiving sales period started. According to Neil Ramsey, administrative manager at Lowe's, sales on the day after Thanksgiving were the best in the three years the Monett store has been open.

"Our foot traffic is up," Ramsey said. "Our Christmas trees are about gone. The decorations are pretty much gone. We're doing good."

The Monett store in fact oversold its appliance inventory. Store officials are waiting for orders to come in from the factory to fill the sales already made.

"People are still shopping for bargains," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he anticipated store traffic to taper off in the next two weeks.

At Westco, owner Steve Kelley said his best sales week is right before Christmas. His business so far has appeared comparable to last year. Kelley expected to have an average Christmas.

"Not lousy and not exceptional," he said.

"People used to look for more frivolous items, like a curio. Now they're looking for something they really need, like mattresses. What I'm selling more of this year is bedding," Kelley said.

Bruner Pharmacy Hallmark Store has long focused on the gift market. Agnes Bruner described Christmas sales up to now as "good, not great."

"We're not matching last year's sales yet," said owner John Bruner. "Last year we were down 15 percent from the previous Christmas. This year we're down about 2 percent. Foot traffic is about the same."

Bruner was optimistic about the current sales picture.

"I see the economy turning." Bruner said. "The downtown community is more united than it has ever been. Stores have stayed open more nights than in the past."

Clothing stores catering to specific customer interests are seeing improvements as well.

"It's better," said Linda Sitton, owner of Peppers and Company. "Last year was so bad. We didn't have much foot traffic at all last year."

Sitton said interest in shopping was reviving among her customers. Sitton recommended gift certificates as a reliable alternative for those who do not know what to buy specifically.

This week foot traffic appeared to have picked up at Fashion Crossroads. Owner Berneice Morris said customers have come in looking for specific items.

"They know what they want. It depends on what their needs are," Morris said.

She hoped the recent spurt of shopping would continue to grow over the next two weeks.

The clothing business as a traditional source of gifts has evolved in the past five years as electronics have taken up a bigger part of the market. Mike Brownsberger, owner of Brownsberger's, said his business has developed into two seasons. Spring and summer now match fall and winter, so Christmas is no longer "make or break" for his year.

Nonetheless Brownsberger said the last week before Christmas is still his biggest week of the year. He expected the last Saturday before Christmas would still be his biggest day of sales for the year.

Brownsberger said in the field of menswear, customers continue to look for things they need, replenishing their personal supply of shirts, pants and jeans as they would any other time of year. A major emphasis he sees this year is shopping for women's accessories such as handbags and jewelry. Brownsberger said this year his store has sold more fashion scarves than in the last three years combined.

"Foot traffic has been normal to maybe a tad better this year," Brownsberger said. "I think sales are slightly up."

Many Monett businesses continue to stay open later hours as the Christmas shopping season moves into its final two weeks. Activities are planned downtown next Friday, including a book signing by three authors at the Monett Museum.

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